FAQs About Family Law and more in Perth

As expert family lawyers in Perth and Joondalup, we are in a unique position to answer various FAQs regarding family law.

To speak to expert Family Lawyers and Divorce Lawyers in Perth, contact us today.

When can the children decide where to live?

There is no magic or prescribed age. The Court must consider a range of issues, however the best interests of the child are paramount. The court is required to consider the views and wishes expressed by children while taking into account their level of understanding and the maturity, as well as any reasons for those views.

Another important consideration when deciding where children should live is the level of understand and co-operation that exists between the parents. It is critical that both parents work collaboratively and do not undermine each other’s parenting, especially when setting boundaries in areas such as managing social media, parties, drugs and alcohol usage

Is the first consultation free?

No. The initial consult will provide you with access to a highly qualified and experienced family lawyer who will gain an understanding of your situation and the issues you wish to address. S/he will discuss with you the legal options available to you to resolve them.

The consult will provide you with information regarding the resolution of your family law matter and allow you to have answered all your questions regarding your family law issue. We consider this invaluable to gain an insight into what your next steps are and what outcomes are possible

How much will my costs be?

It is virtually impossible to predict exactly how much a family law matter will cost. It depends upon how much time it has taken your lawyer to do the necessary work. This varies significantly depending on a number of factors such as:

  • The complexity of your matter;
  • The cooperation of the other party and their legal representative;
  • Family dynamics and the involvement of other parties such as adult children or new partners;
  • The methods involved to reach a dispute such as negotiation, mediation, collaboration and/or court litigation.

The average hourly rate our for family lawyers ranges from $265 to $485 (exclusive of GST) per hour.

Try to achieve a balance between keeping costs reasonable and receiving high quality service from your lawyer, focus on the legal issues. If you are struggling with the separation or finding yourself under stress, don’t hesitate to seek assistance from a counsellor or other trained professional. Don’t rely on your friends or family to be your lawyer or counsellor. They are there to provide support, while professionals are there to help you using their expertise.

No-one ever budgets for family law costs so whatever the cost it can seem expensive and there are rarely any winners in family law just varying degrees of loss. You should consider what you wish the outcome to be and can you achieve it without legal guidance.

Finally, remember that costs are not purely financial, the emotional and physical costs of family law proceedings should not be underestimated.

What do I do if we can’t reach an agreement in mediation?

If agreement is not reached at Mediation, you may need to seek Orders from the Family Court. We can assist you to decide if Court action is necessary or if another form of resolution is possible.

Even if mediation has not worked it may have assisted in clarifying the position of you and your former partner which may assist the next step in the process.

When should I use mediation?

If both parties are willing to negotiate and are seeking a simpler, cost effective and confidential process then mediation is a key way to achieve an agreement. Mediation can be used in both financial and parenting matters.

Mediation offers parties the ability to resolve their financial disputes in an informal setting without the need for court proceedings.

Parties are encouraged to consider a range of options which are aimed at achieving a mutually acceptable outcome tailored to their individual needs.

Mediation helps people focus on what is really important, and it provides a safe space to talk about issues that may be hindering a settlement.

Parties who successfully resolve their matter at mediation avail themselves of significant savings in relation to legal fees as well as the inevitable emotional stress associated with litigation which can be protracted over several years. It also ensures you maintain control and ownership of the outcome rather than the outcome being determined by the Family court.

Mediations take place at a time and location to suit the parties.

Mediation is private and confidential. It can be used both before and after a case has been started in Court. It is also possible to have more than 1 mediation.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a structured negotiation process where a trained person (the Mediator) assists the parties to identify and assess their options to reach an agreement to resolve their dispute.

The Mediator will facilitate discussions by asking questions, encouraging discussion and offering different perspectives to assist the parties to identify issues and concerns to enable them explore the options, allowing them to reach an agreement.

Parties can attend mediation on their own or with a lawyer.

What to expect and bring to the initial consultation?

Your lawyer will ask you to explain your situation and the family law issues you wish to resolve. S/He will inform you of your legal rights, explain what options are available to you to resolve your dispute and discuss any concerns you have surrounding your family law matter. There is no obligation to proceed with the lawyer after your initial consultation.

It is beneficial to you and your lawyer if you come to the initial meeting prepared with as much information as you can. This includes:

  • A summary of key dates such as dates of birth, date of marriage, date you started living with together, date of separation, the names and dates of birth of your children, and dates when key assets were acquired and/or sold.
  • If the issue relates to a financial settlement
    • Details of the assets, liabilities and superannuation, that currently exist and how they are owned.
    • Bank account details and current balances.
    • All known sources of income that are available between you and your former partner, and a list of the regular household expenses.
  • Where the issues relate to children and parenting, documents such as recent school reports, and medical information (if relevant).
  • A list of questions you wish to ask.

Don’t worry if you don’t have all of this information or you are unsure about what to ask. Our lawyers are skilled in knowing what you need to know, even if you don’t ask.

Why should I choose Paterson & Dowding?

Our team of Family Lawyers in Perth and Joondalup offers a broad range of services for separated, married and de facto couples and interested third parties.

As one of the longest established Family Law firms in Perth with 50 years of experience, our highly skilled team consists of Accredited Family Law Specialists, Nationally Accredited Mediators, Collaborative Lawyers, Independent Children’s Lawyers and a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner.

We are committed to fully understanding each client’s specific legal concerns, no matter how complicated the matter, in order to achieve the best outcome.


Can you represent both parties?

A family lawyer cannot represent both parties.

Representing both parties would constitute a conflict of interest, as lawyers have a duty to act in the best interests of their client and not the other party.

What is the process once I make an initial enquiry?

On receipt of your initial enquiry via email or telephone a lawyer will contact you. You will be asked to provide a brief overview of your situation and some personal information. This is necessary to help us assess whether we can assist you. If so, we will invite you to make an appointment for you to meet with a lawyer.

You attend the initial appointment and discuss your situation. The lawyer will provide you with an indication of your options to resolve your matter, give you an indication of costs and answer any questions you have surrounding your situation.

Your appointment with a lawyer is protected by Legal Professional Privilege. This means we cannot disclose anything you tell us, to anyone else, without your consent.

Following the appointment, you will be invited to sign our costs agreement. This sets out our fees and charges and the terms upon which we would be willing to assist you. Once you have signed the costs agreement and complied with any terms regarding payment, we will begin working on your matter.

Your matter can progress through a number of stages to reach a resolution. The first stage is negotiation with the other party. If no agreement is reached, the next stage is usually mediation followed by Court proceedings.

Who is the best lawyer for my matter – toughest, most experienced, gets best results?

All of our lawyers practise in all areas of Family Law. All matters are overseen by a senior practitioner with assistance from junior lawyers and clerks as required. This ensures a value for money service to our clients.

Many of our lawyers have specialist interests in particular aspects of Family Law. Please view our staff profiles on our website to find a lawyer with the right experience for your Family Law issue.

Does infidelity impact my divorce settlement?

No. In Australia we have a no-fault divorce system under the Family Law Act. This means that neither party has to prove that anyone was at fault in order to apply for a divorce.

The Court is unlikely to take fault into account when deciding how assets should be divided.

In some cases, such as where a party has been subjected to domestic violence, it can have an impact on the division of assets if it:

  • Makes one party’s contributions significantly more difficult than they should have been; or
  • Affects a party’s future prospects (e.g. – ability to support themselves going forward).

What if we live under the same roof?

It is possible for you to be separated and live “under the same roof”. You will need to explain this to the Court and may need to provide additional information if the application is not a joint application

Do I need to be separated for 12 months prior to getting a divorce?


How much will it cost me?

There is a filing fee payable to the Family Court when you file your application. If you have a concession card or you are suffering financial hardship, you may be eligible for a fee reduction.

If you have engaged a lawyer to assist with the process, your legal fees will cover the cost of preparing a divorce application, serving the application of the other spouse (if a sole application) and appearing at the hearing (if necessary). Unfortunately, unless a fixed fee is offered, we cannot provide an estimate as there are a number of variables which may affect your divorce.

How do I apply for a divorce?

You can apply for a divorce either online or in paper form. You will need to provide the completed application form, the filing fee and the marriage certificate.

Contact us if you require assistance in relation to completing the divorce application and attending the court hearing if required.

You can apply on your own (sole application) or with the other spouse (joint application). If you make a sole application, you will have to serve the application on the other spouse within 28 days prior to divorce hearing. The Family Court have strict rules surrounding service of divorce applications, delays may occur if service is not conducted in line with Family Court rules.

Can I apply for a divorce?

For the court to have jurisdiction, one party must satisfy at least two of the following:

  • You regard Australia as your home
  • You intend to live indefinitely in Australia
  • You have lived in Australia your entire life
  • You are an Australian citizen
  • You have lived in Australia for 12 months immediately before filing your divorce application

You must show the Family Court that:

  • You have been separated for a period of at least 12 months; and
  • There is no chance of reconciliation
  • If it has been less than two years since you married and you want to apply for divorce, you must obtain a counselling certificate or provide an affidavit to the Family Court requesting permission to file your divorce application

Note: in relation to your period of separation of one year, if you have lived together as husband and wife for 1 period of up to 3 months after separating then you can use the periods of separation before and after living together again as husband and wife to calculate the required 12 months’ separation for divorce.


What does it mean to be separated?

Separation occurs when one party communicates to the other party that the marriage is over and you cease to live as husband and wife. You can be separated and still live in the same home.

What is a divorce?

A divorce is the official legal ending of a marriage.

What can I do before we separate?

You will need copies of all important paperwork and store them in a secure location. Key documents include:

  • Taxation returns and group certificates;
  • Superannuation statements
  • Bank and credit card statements;
  • Paperwork supporting your sources of income such as dividends and rent;
  • Documentation for major payments made in cash;
  • Investment documentation such as share portfolios and certificates;
  • Important Deeds, such as Family Trust Deeds and Wills;
  • Business records, including annual financial returns;
  • Loan documentation;
  • Insurance documents and valuations;
  • Photos of valuable assets such as antiques and jewellery
  • Marriage certificate; and
  • Birth certificates of your children

If you have made substantial contributions during the relationship as a result of inheritance, gifts or assets you owned before the relationship commenced, or you have made significant contributions to acquire or improve assets during the relationship, you will require paperwork to support this.

If you feel your former partner may try to limit your access to funds, and provided you are legally entitled to access funds, you may wish to secure sufficient funds to cover your living expenses and legal fees. It is referrable you seek legal advice before doing so.

Separation is a difficult time so ensure you and your children have appropriate support from friends and family as well as professional support such as a counsellor.

Do all family law matters have to go to court?

Not necessarily.

There are a range of options for resolving disputes including Mediation, Negotiation and Collaborative Law.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that of those cases that proceed to court 95% settle without the need for a final hearing.

Do I need a family lawyer?

We recognise that this may be a very stressful time in your life and our lawyers are well equipped to provide you with constructive guidance.  We recommend that you have the benefit of meeting with one of our lawyers for at least a one-off consultation.  By meeting with a family lawyer at our Perth law firm, you will be provided with practical advice to help you navigate your way through your legal issues. 

What time limits apply in family law matters?

If you are or were married, you must apply to the Family Court for property settlement and or spousal maintenance within 12 months of the date your divorce order takes effect.

If you are or were in a de facto relationship, you must apply to the Family Court for a property settlement and or spousal maintenance within two years of the date you separated.

Subject to the requirement to participate in Family Dispute Resolution there is no time limit in relation to when you can make an application to the Family Court in relation to children’s issues.

How long will it take to resolve my matter?

In the event you are unable to reach an agreement and it becomes necessary to commence proceedings, the Family Court of Western Australia estimates that matters will take approximately 2 to 2½ years to reach a final hearing.

What can I expect my costs to be?

Once we have had an opportunity to assess your matter we will provide you with an estimate of the likely range of fees.  In the event your matter proceeds to Court we are obliged to provide you with cost notifications at various stages of the process.

What can you do?

One of the major concerns voiced by clients is the cost of litigation. We are often asked by our clients what they can do themselves to keep costs down.

If you are considering making an appointment with divorce lawyers in Perth, there are a number of things you can prepare that can save us time and you money.

For the first appointment:

You should ensure that you have the following information available to provide your family lawyer:

  • Full name, address and date(s) of birth of you, the other party and any children
  • Date you began living together
  • Date of marriage
  • Place of marriage
  • Date of separation
  • The living arrangements of your children (if applicable)
  • Details of your assets and liabilities, including superannuation (owned solely and jointly)

You should endeavour to bring the following documents with you:

  • Your marriage certificate
  • Birth certificates for the children (if applicable)
  • Any previous court documentation, especially court orders
  • Any letters or documents from your former partner or their solicitor

Don’t worry if you can’t provide the information or you don’t have access to the documents.  We will be able to help you obtain these details and get the documents we need to properly advise you.